By Amy Desselle
Shakespeare may have coined the phrase “star-cross’d lovers” but Adriana Trigiani brings it to life.
Her latest novel, “The Shoemaker’s Wife,” follows the lives of Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli from their first meeting on the slopes of the Italian Alps, to the busy streets of Hoboken and Little Italy, through the trenches of World War I and to the Iron Range of Minnesota.
Inspired by the love story of her own grandparents and their immigration to America at the turn of the early 20th century, this piece of historical fiction is full of depth and poignant characters.
At an early age, Ciro and his brother Eduardo are left at a convent after the death of their father and resulting illness of their mother. While the story starts slowly as the boys scrub floors and meander through their years of convent life, it takes flight with the introduction of Enza Lazzari and her family.
Ciro and Enza meet at the burial of Enza’s five-year-old sister, and it is here that they feel a strong connection as they place the final shovel of dirt on her grave.
After happening upon the local priest with his hands up a young woman’s skirt, Ciro is forced to leave the safety of the convent, his brother and his blossoming relationship with Enza. He abruptly immigrated to America and begins an apprenticeship with a shoemaker in Little Italy.
Unknown to Ciro, Enza’s family falls on hard times as well. She and her father immigrate shortly after to make money for their family. Enza settles into a basement room and grueling hours at a shirt-making factory.
Fate leads to chance encounters over the years but Enza and Ciro continue to follow their separate paths as Enza begins work as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and Ciro joins up for the war.
Time after time they are taken away from each other.
This isn’t just your typical love story though. Trigiani has created a book that addresses sacrifice and loyalty, hard work, the devastation of war and the hardships that faced immigrants. She has managed to create real families with real struggles.
The author doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities of death and war and the ups and downs that approach from every angle. You feel connected to these characters; you root for them, their obstacles frustrate you.
“The Shoemaker’s Wife” seamlessly blends history with a vibrant plot. The prose is detailed and animated, occasionally haunting and nostalgic. This book recalls a time in our history where anything was possible with hard work and dedication; when dreaming was encouraged.
The detailed descriptions can begin to drag and the large cast of secondary characters can become confusing, but these are only minor details.
This is a novel born from 20 years of research, a clear passion and love of the history and its personal significance, but also a showcase of a writer’s ability to create beautiful characters and rich stories.Contact Amy Desselle.